Take a More Interesting Nature Photograph

Photography has many rules of composition: the Rule of Thirds, using light, using color, using natural frames, using shapes and patterns, using selective focus. However, sometimes you can break the rules and create a more compelling photograph. When should you break the rules?

The answer is simple: when you examine a scene through the viewfinder or LCD monitor and decide that you’ll get a better photograph if you don’t stick to the rules. For example, sometimes it makes sense to center your subject in an image (see the figure). But even though the bird is in the center of the photograph, your attention is drawn to its eye.

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Other rules you can break:

  • Establish a level horizon line. The majority of your nature photography images should have a level horizon line. But like all rules, you can break this one when the occasion presents itself, such as when you create a portrait of an animal.

  • Use a telephoto lens with a long focal length. When you photograph a grand landscape, you almost always use a wide-angle lens. However, you can get some great shots if you use a telephoto lens with a focal length of 100mm or longer to zoom in and photograph details like the texture, pattern, or bark of the trunk of a sequoia tree.

  • Shoot from an unorthodox vantage point. Instead of sticking to the tried and true dogma of photographing your subjects at their eye level, experiment with shooting from an unusual vantage point. For example, photograph a bird from high above and make a noise so he’ll look up at you.

    Or try the opposite and photograph a very tall animal like a giraffe from a low vantage point. Note that this technique works only with animals that are used to the presence of humans. Never try this with an animal in the wilderness.

  • Leave room for your subject to look into. When you photograph an animal looking pensively into the distance, you generally leave some space for the animal to look into. For a different effect, zoom in tight, filling the frame with your subject’s head. This is also known as an extreme close-up.

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